Learning lessons about how to learn from mistakes: Errors, Medicine and the Law

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


First published in 2001, and with a second edition in 2017, Merry and McCall Smith’s Errors, Medicine and the Law was instrumental in demonstrating how and why traditional culpability-focused legal and regulatory responses to patient harm were failing to improve standards in healthcare. This leading work was characterised by an interdisciplinary international approach to its damning critique of regulatory frameworks which rely on blame as a central response to patient harm. It drew on growing understandings of the scale of harm caused to patients, and the cognitive processes that can lead to such harm, to develop contextualised and transformative accounts of the concepts of error, blame, and accountability in healthcare. These conceptualisations now lie at the heart of much modern patient-safety policy. Errors, Medicine and the Law has, therefore, been at the vanguard of the movement to reform legal and regulatory responses to patient harm, and it remains a crucial critique of those legal frameworks which remain entrenched in blame.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLeading Works in Health Law and Ethics
EditorsSara Fovargue, Craig Purshouse
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781003146612
ISBN (Print)9780367704858, 9780367704933
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2023

Publication series

NameAnalysing Leading Works in Law


  • health law
  • medical error

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Healthier Futures


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